by NGT News on Tuesday July 14, 2015
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has announced it is working with automakers Ford Motor Co. and FCA US LLC on a study to help boost the efficiency of dual-fuel engines.
According to the lab, the pre-competitive research is focused on exploring technical concepts and development of engine technology that simultaneously uses natural gas and traditional gasoline to maximize the best characteristics of both fuels, while reducing oil consumption and making the most of the recent boom in natural gas supplies in the U.S. Argonne and the automakers are conducting the project under a cooperative research and development agreement.
“The fact that two major players in the auto industry are partnering with Argonne on this project really shows the promise of this approach,” says project director Thomas Wallner. “The assumption here is that if you blend the fuels properly, you can make substantial gains in efficiency.”
Wallner notes vehicles that use both gasoline and natural gas have been around for some time, but what most people think of as a dual-fuel vehicle is actually more of a bi-fuel vehicle. As he explains, bi-fuel vehicles have natural gas and gasoline on board, but they typically use only one fuel at a time. This research will focus solely on engines using both fuels simultaneously.
Ultimately, the project’s objective is to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10% increase in overall efficiency and a 10% improvement in power density.
Argonne says natural gas has much higher resistance to knocking, which is caused when the fuel/air mixture in an engine’s cylinder auto-ignites. Mixing natural gas with gasoline would allow the engine to run without fuel enrichment and with optimal spark timing, thereby enabling higher engine efficiency and minimizing conditions that might otherwise cause knocking and potential engine damage.